Great tech innovators: Ray Kurzweil

The man who gazes into the crystal ball for the tech industry

  • Age: 67
  • Company: Google
  • Best known for: Future tech, AI, singularity, inventions
  • Quote: "The power of ideas to transform the world is itself accelerating."

Ray Kurzweil is a futurist – someone who studies the future and predicts where humankind is headed – or rather, perhaps it's better to say that he's the futurist. The one whose words and predictions are clung onto and heard in every corner of the tech industry.

Kurzweil is lauded as one of the most influential thinkers of his generation, and is an inventor who has been called the "rightful heir to Thomas Edison" by Forbes.

His inventions include the first CCD flatbed scanner and omni-font OCR, but he's most famous for his bestselling books such as 'The Singularity Is Near', 'The Age of Spiritual Machines', and 'How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed'.

Kurzweil has plenty to say on the subject of AI and the singularity – the point when computers become more intelligent than humans – and believes a machine will pass the Turing Test in 2029.

Furthermore, he thinks that by 2045, machine intelligence will be infinitely more powerful than humankind's combined intellect, and further tech development will be driven by said machines (just call them our robot overlords).

He also predicts nanobots floating around in our blood stream will be a reality in a couple of decades, helping us fight illness – hugely extending our lifespan – and augmenting our cognitive faculties. When he dies, his body will be preserved and stored in the hope of later revival.

Until then, Kurzweil is working at Google as director of engineering, where he's using the firm's vast data mines and resources to produce truly intelligent computers that understand human language on a deep level, in the quest for the perfect clever clogs search engine which really can deliver results (ed: Isn't that Deep Thought?).

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Image Credit: Ed Schipul (Flickr)